Meltdown: The life jacket edition



I’ve been away from blogging for a while – soaking up the last it of summer. As usual, things have been up and down in our house. Poor little Maddy is catching absolutely every bug known to man. In the last three weeks she’s had pink eye, sixth disease, a double ear infection, and hand, foot, and mouth disease. The poor thing has only had a few stretches of five days or so where she was healthy since she started daycare in June. We’re hopeful that her immune system is going to start fighting some of the daycare bugs soon.

We topped off a busy summer with a lovely weekend at a cottage in Parry Sound (thanks Kris & Steve!).

Sunrise with baby

The silver lining of having a baby who more often than not wakes up before 5 am for the day, even though she’s tired and grumpy and not ready to wake up – you get to see a beautiful sunrise over a lake.

Nothing makes waking up at 4am more bearable than enjoying some cider on the dock.

Considering Maddy was sick, we had a great time. Her peak fussiness didn’t really hit until the day we left (and continued for a day at home). Gotta say, the kid’s got good timing 😉

We did have two meltdowns while at the cottage – both life jacket induced. We were nervous heading into the weekend knowing we’d have to put a life jacket on Maddy. I mean, a life jacket is not exactly the most comforting thing for any child, and when you put tactile sensitivity on top of that, we were prepared for the worst. Imagine having sandpaper rubbing against your neck and face non-stop and being unable to move it away. That’s what wearing a life jacket might feel like to a tactile sensitive kiddo. We decided to test out the life jacket inside the cottage, hoping that maybe we could warm Maddy up to the idea. Let’s just say Maddy was not really interested in warming up to the life jacket.

After this first attempt, Maddy was thrown off of her game for about 15 minutes after the life jacket was taken off. She needed a lot of cuddles and reassurance before she regained some of her independence. Unfortunately, we had a boat ride planned for later that day and knew we would have to try it again.

We decided to wait until the boat started moving before we put it on, with the slim hope that the movement would be a good enough distraction for her. Not so much. Maddy screamed and writhed with the jacket on for about five minutes. It got to the point that Eric and I were worried she’d hurt herself. Against our better judgment, we took the life jacket off of her. She was so worked up it took about 45 minutes before she stopped screaming and writhing in our arms. After that, it was at least another half hour before she would let us put her down.

Sometimes I think it’s one of life’s cruel jokes that kiddos who find sensory input more stressful also lack the self soothing skills that babies typically develop between three and six months of age. It’s really one of the reasons that I lack so much patience with Maddy when she gets going… because she is always going over the seemingly littlest things, and her fits can throw her off for half a day or more. Overall, I know my patience is pretty good. I am able to put up with a lot. But, there are some days that I wake up with no patience because it’s been sucked up the days before.

Often when people comment that it’s typical for toddlers to assert themselves in the only way they know how, through a tantrum, I agree, because it’s true. The difference between Maddy and a typically developing child is that a typically developing child has the skills to calm themselves. Maddy does not. Maddy needs us to pick her up and give deep pressure through bear hugs, or provide other calming sensory input. On top of that, techniques that often work with typically developing kiddos, like distraction, don’t work with Maddy once she’s worked up. Maddy is no longer fussing over the item we took away from her, she’s fussing simply because she can’t calm herself down – she’s having a meltdown. As she enters the terrible twos this will only continue to get worse – trying to identify a tantrum from a meltdown – and having to put up with both.

I have already started to sense the judgment of others in public when these incidents go down. It reads all over people’s faces that we’re giving in to a tantrum, and that her behaviour is a result of our parenting. What these strangers don’t understand is that left to her own devices Maddy will not calm down – she will escalate. More than once I’ve had to hold back tears and bite my lip as I watch Madeleine bang her head off of the floor or wall out of anger. Both Eric and I have to hold Maddy while she throws sippy cups full of milk square at our faces, pinches us, digs her fingers in our eyes, and scratches us. I already have bruises on my body from our sweet little girls meltdowns. I know that as Maddy gets older, this judgment will only continue to get worse. I am still learning to ignore the looks and well-meant but rather rude suggestions for how to better handle her.

We had been on an up curve for a while after starting therapy with Madeleine. We plateaued after a few months. The last couple of weeks have been wild in our house, a sign that Maddy is entering a new developmental phase – the toddler phase. The techniques we used to use no longer cut it. We need to learn how to better handle the toddler years, SPD styles.

We said goodbye to summer this past long weekend, enjoying  good company, good weather, and good food. We enter the fall ready to tackle the new challenges life will bring.



2 responses »

  1. I know you know this, but the other difference is clearly also that they have these meltdowns much more frequently than the average child. Such that it can seem, at times, like your day has been nothing but one meltdown leading into the next…

  2. Pingback: It is hard, and it hurts « sewrite

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